Great Victories for Religious Freedom

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RC199201ECD0










On June 27, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Coach Joe Kennedy has the right to pray on the Bremerton, Washington, football field. The coach had begun praying on the field after football games in 2008. The Bremerton School District feared a lawsuit and told him to stop. But then, some of the football players began to join him. In 2016, the school district placed him on administrative leave and then refused to renew his contract. He sued and his case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Justice Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

He also wrote that the First Amendment does not discriminate between religious and secular speech: “Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the school district had no constitutional basis for reprimanding Coach Kennedy. Justice Samuel Alito also concurred because, he said, Coach Kennedy was acting as a private citizen in his prayers.

What many do not understand is the wider ramifications from the Kennedy opinion. In this decision, the court discarded wrongly decided precedent from another religious freedom case, Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971. The so-called “Lemon tests” have been used for decades to suppress public religious expressions involving religious displays and prayer. The Lemon tests have blocked public expressions of religious faith and sought to drive religion from the public square, including displays of crosses, Ten Commandments displays, menorah displays, Nativity scenes and even public prayer. All of those cases where Lemon tests were applied are now null and void.

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is a great victory for religious liberty. And to complete the victory, Coach Kennedy must be reinstated in his old job by March 2023.

The public interest law firm that took the Coach Kennedy case to the Supreme Court is First Liberty Institute. In the 16-minute video at the link below, spokesmen from First Liberty encourage folks to not be afraid to express their faith in their communities. First Liberty has launched a project to inform people about the greater religious freedom that is available as a result of this case. Feel free to share this with your friends and family. The major media is not going to tell anyone that their religious freedom has been enhanced by the Kennedy decision.

According to First Liberty Institute, “Now, prayer can return to public places. Religious monuments that were taken down can go back up. Wherever your faith has been muzzled, now religious freedom can confidently be put back where it rightfully and legally belongs.

At this holiday season, an expansion of religious freedom in the United States is certainly something to be thankful for.